Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stafford Council ignoring its own towing rotation ordinance

January 29, 2013

Hon. John Spodofora, Mayor and Members of the
Stafford Township Council
260 East Bay Ave
Manahawkin, NJ 08050
(via e-mail only to BPark@twp.stafford.nj.us)

Dear Mayor Spodofora and Council members:

I believe that the Township is currently out of compliance with § 192-5 of its municipal code.  That section states:
§ 192-5. Eligibility for rotating list.

In addition to meeting all other criteria of this chapter and in order to be eligible for placement upon the rotating list of authorized towers, the contractor shall supply a certificate of liability insurance by a company licensed to do business in the State of New Jersey, certifying that the contractor maintains workers compensation and garage liability insurance of not less than $1,000,000 combined single limit, garage keepers' liability of not less than $100,000 per vehicle, said garage keepers' legal liability insurance policy to further provide for fire, theft and explosion. All public liability insurance, including garage liability and garage keepers' legal liability coverage, shall name the Township of Stafford, its officers, agents and employees as additional insureds on the policy, shall hold them harmless, indemnify them from any and all claims filed against the Township arising out of any act or failure to act on behalf of the contractor and shall contain an endorsement providing 30 days' notice to the Township in the event of any material changes of the policy or cancellation thereof. Those contractors meeting the eligibility requirements shall be approved and added to the rotating list by resolution of the Township Council, upon advice of the Chief of Police. (Emphasis supplied)
I recently submitted an OPRA request to Clerk Bernadette Park seeking "the most recently passed Township Council resolution that added contractors to the rotating list in accordance with Ord. §. 192-5."  In response, Ms. Park provided me with no resolution but wrote:
In response to your question regarding towing licenses here in Stafford.  The is no current or fixed date or term of any towing licenses here in Stafford.  However, each year towing contractors, in order to be eligible for towing here in Stafford must supply a certificate of liability insurance certifying that the towing contractor maintains worker compensation & garage liability insurance and also names the township of Stafford as additional insured on their policy.  There is a criminal history check and drivers license check done by the Stafford Township Police Department yearly on all employees that are employed by towing contractors.
Yet, the Township Code doesn't permit the Police Department and Township Administration, acting alone, to put towing contractors to be put on the rotation.  Rather, the Code explicitly requires the Police Chief's recommended towing companies to "be approved and added to the rotating list by resolution of the Township Council."  Absent a resolution, none of the towing companies that the Township currently recognizes as being on the rotation list (Mark's Towing & Road Service, Midnite Towing Inc., South Shore Towing Inc. and Stohrer Bros. Inc.) are properly on the towing list for want of an authorizing resolution.

I believe that government needs to turn sharp corners when dealing with the public, especially here, when the Township Committee is, in effect, conferring a towing monopoly on these four towing companies.  If the Township Code calls for a resolution, then your choices are either to pass a resolution or amend the code to remove the resolution requirement.

Beyond that, there is a good policy reason underlying the Code's requirement that resolutions be passed.  Passing resolutions during an open, public meeting informs members of the public of the companies which which the Township has chosen to do business and provides them with an opportunity, during the public portion of the meeting, to criticize or commend the companies selected and also to note and comment on any familial or business affiliations between those companies and the Council members who currently serve.

I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

John Paff, Chairman
New Jersey Libertarian Party's
Open Government Advocacy Project
P.O. Box 5424
Somerset, NJ  08875
Voice: 732-873-1251
Fax: 908-325-0129
e-mail: paff@pobox.com